Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Music Lessons

Want to know how to save tons of money on beginning music lessons for your kids? Learn to play the instruments with your child. So far I have been able to stay about 1 or 2 steps ahead of the girls on piano and violin. I read books and watch videos then teach them what I know and encourage them to practice. Usually they get to know the pieces better than I do since they are practicing more (and focusing on one instrument). For a DIY family like us, this is the way to go.

Our kids are surrounded by music on a daily basis. Daniel plays the guitar every day and sometimes, in the evenings, I play with him. They were born in a musical family. My parents have always played instruments and are now in a band. Daniel's dad is also a musician, music lover, and instrument collector. All of these things have helped make them into the musicians that they are. Most importantly, they practice every day and they are proud of the sounds that they can make.

Daniel is learning a classical guitar accompaniment to go along with a duet that the girls know. The kids love when we all play together:)

Here's Arianna playing 3 songs from her Suzuki book. Ellen is playing Red River Valley. They've both been playing for almost a year. The sound that you here towards the end of Ellen's video is a helicopter.

Here are the books we are using for piano.
Alfred's Basic Piano Library. Started with level one. Now going on to level 3.

For violin I ordered this Suzuki book and CD from Amazon. I had to watch a lot of videos on youtube to learn how to hold the bow and play the violin. This is my favorite guy and he has a whole series of beginning violin tutorials.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

One Giant Leaf Pile

Daniel and girls collected leaves from a nearby church. They brought them into our yard a made a huge pile which we will use for compost the whole year.

But first we must play in it!

Pretty girls.
Silly girls.
As always, Blue is keeping a close watch...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Pictures

We drove to Charlotte Thursday morning for a wonderful vegetarian Thanksgiving feast provided by Daniel's mom. We got to see visiting family members from Daniel's side including some of his brothers and sisters.

Thursday evening we drove up to Mountain City to Mimi and BB's house. My brother and his family were in town from Baton Rouge. The cousins just couldn't get enough of each other--they played inside and out, in the hot tub, in the music studio, at a few parks, watched movies and slept on the floor together since we didn't have a bed big enough for them all:) It's amazing how kids can literally make a game out of anything.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Fall Fun--Fair and Halloween

A day at the State Fair. Five hours of pure fun!

The girls went trick or treating twice. The first time they went with Daniel to an event at USC while I was visiting family last week. They got such a load. We all decided that the candy is better off in the trash than in their bodies. They kept a few pieces but threw away 4 pounds of junk.
While in the mood of getting rid of things, Daniel helped them go through their room and get rid of a few bags of clothes and toys. They also cleaned out my car and cleaned the house while I was away.
They wanted to be Indians for Halloween so we sewed these costumes out of some fabric and extra pieces from the fabric store. They made belts out of gimp and beads. Daniel sewed the shoulder bag for them.
We carved some pumpkins and left a bowl of candy out for the trick-or-treaters while we walked around the neighborhood last night.  We got another load of candy and sorted through most of it again tonight.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Loquats are blooming!

After following the Clemson extension planting guidelines for Fall planting in the Sandhills of SC and watching the late heat and dry weather decimate our hopes for a Fall garden these Loquat blossoms are a real treat.

Loquats are from Asia (pretty general right?) but are well established in the Southern US. I see them all over town in Columbia, mostly single trees as ornamentals in yards. Loquats are evergreen, reach a modest height of 20-30 feet, have large shiny leaves with a gray hairy underside, and are both easy to care for and attractive as ornamentals. I picked up some Loquat saplings from the landscape department at the school I work at downtown. A landscaper had collected saplings and they were just living in pots in a corner with little attention. The plants reproduce readily from the seeds of fallen fruit.

I planted them in full sun and they shot off like rockets with little extra care. I maintain a heavy layer of mulch but they are rooted in a well-drained very sandy soil. This is the northern exremity of their range. We are zone eight. Some years the fruit is killed off by a run of very cold nights. However last year I ate lots of fruit off the trees on campus. I also had some interesting conversations with students who were unaware that food was available above their heads.

Loquats bloom in the Fall and then the clusters of orange fruit mature in the late winter or early Spring. I'm very excited to see healthy blooms on my young trees and hopefully we'll stay warm enough to harvest some good fruit.

If you are zone eight or hotter, and the hotter the better, consider the Loquat for its attractive shape and foliage, food provision, and odd fruiting time. The orange fruits will stand out when everything else is just waking up from winter sleep. If you want one try hunting down a mature tree in your area. Chances are there are saplings waiting to be dug up and planted in your yard for free.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Annual Carolina Coast Beach Bonanza

Our annual beach trip with friends on the Carolina coast was a resounding success. Each year is better than the last and this one was no different. The beach was beautiful, and while the temperature was cooler than last year, there was no shortage of boogie boarding, beach frisbee, beach football, beach horseshoe, beach bocce ball, hole digging, dead fish finding, dead fish dragging, jellyfish poking, racing, castle building, jogging, walking, guitar playing, body burying, sea shell collecting, beach food eating and drinking, book reading, sand eating, sand throwing, hole filling, beach talking, reading, and what am I forgetting? Oh, good ole beach staring. My favorite.

The food was wonderfully organized, filling, delicious, and lovingly home-made. Each family brought components of larger meals and lots of snacks for in-between. Not only was it yummy but the cooking was well distributed amongst everyone so that no one cooked all the time.

The group doubled in size. Dan and Janet Aardema came from Virginia with their two kids Sylvia and Joren. Scott and Anna Morrison came from North Carolina and brought their kids Julian, Madelyn, Kalen, and Brayden. Jason and Lesley Bulluck, who we've made the trip with three times before, came with Alder and Heath from Virginia. We totaled eight happy adults and ten happy kiddos.

When we started the beach trip tradition several years ago all the kids were itty-bitty and clung close to the parents. This trip I saw our girls for meals and before bed, and Alder ventured off everywhere and even fell asleep with the big kids. Watching the kids grow is sure cool.

We moved up to a house right on the beach. This was wonderful.  What benefits. It made everything from transporting beach stuff to watching the kids easier. And back porches are much more interesting facing the ocean than facing hotels.

Some favorite moments: A strapping lad eats his weight in oatmeal. Sand fleas are inexpensive pets. Flying diapers attack unsuspecting parents from a loft above. Daringly, a fish carcass is dragged down the beach. Internet withdrawal syndrome strikes. Country accents don't automatically imply horseshoe skill. A rookie quarterback's career ends with a preseason jammed finger. Piers are dangerous places of flying hooks and fish guts. Sometimes oceans act like lakes. Sand is fun in large quantities. A guy treats the guitar like a third arm. The Nodo Chords rock!

The kids, especially the older ones who are old enough to experience leaving the beach and friends as a loss, were visibly down when we left. I was too. But that means it was good.

So many thanks to the Aardemas, Morrisons, and Bullucks for all the love they gave the trip.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Friday, October 08, 2010

Homeschooling and Socialization

 We attended two events last week that made me thankful for our friends and the town we live in. On Sunday we met up with 3 other families and went to Unearth at Saluda Shoals Park in Irmo. For this event, the park organized more than 20 artists, musicians, and drama teams who were all performing along the nature trails. (It was put on for the entire Columbia area not just homeschoolers.)
 Some artists had hands-on demonstrations while others just talked about their work.

 The day ended with the Lake Murray Symphony set up for a free concert right by the river.
 On Wednesday, Harbison State Forest hosted our homeschool group for a Fall Field day. The 60 or more people in our group divided up according to the ages of their children and we split up for nature hikes and relay games.
When we first started homeschooling people would ask me if I was concerned about my kids having enough opportunity for socialization. I was pretty confident even then that finding friends would not be a problem. Now I find that it is hard to choose from all the field trips, clubs, classes, and events that Columbia has to offer for families and homeschoolers. The girls (and I) have amazing friendships and are thankful for the relationships, play times, learning opportunities and memories of these early elementary years.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Black Widow

Don't find these around the house very often!

Daniel found this one on some trash that he picked up from a neighbor's yard.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Free USC Equestrian Events

Daniel got a schedule of USC athletic events a few weeks ago and told us about a free equestrian event that was being held this weekend. Arianna has always loved horses and both of the girls have been asking for riding lessons. We thought this event would be a good chance to see horses up close and watch them perform and compete.

USC owns a farm called One Wood Farm out in Blythewood which is about 20 minutes from our house. We were there on Friday afternoon when mostly English riders were performing.

The grounds were beautiful and all the stables were open so we walked around and petted other horses while we were there.

Here's the link for directions, schedule, etc. for the USC equestrian team. All events are free!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Ellen!

Our little girl turned 9 yesterday. She wanted an ice cream cake so I made one with soy ice cream and whip cream. Mimi came down to celebrate with us.
She was so excited and surprised to open her new aquarium. We took her to the pet store to pick out all the decorations and live plants last night. We'll go get the fish later tonight. We've set it up in their room for enjoyment all night long.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Our Day

I find it interesting to read about how other homeschool families spend their day. Here's a glimpse of what we are doing these school days.

Even though every day is a little different because of dance, coop, field trips, or errands, we keep the same routine. I think the pattern is important for our sanity. We keep all our school books together on the shelf in the dining room where we sit first thing in the morning. I write down a list of things they need to get done every day for a week and they keep it with their stack of stuff.

The girls usually wake up around 7-7:30. I like to get up before them so I can have coffee and read news and blogs while I wake up. Two mornings a week we have ballet classes that I teach so we try to get started with school work by 8:30. On the days we don't have dance we start at 9:00. I don't care what they do between breakfast and when we sit down for school work but they have to have done all their chores -- brush teeth, get dressed, straighten room -- by the time we get started.

We always begin with math.
I've found that since math takes so much concentration the girls do much better if they tackle it first. We use Math U See for our curriculum. Ellen is on Delta which is the 4th book and she is over half way through it. She is working on long division, finding the area of triangles and parallelograms, etc. Arianna is about 1/3 of the way through the 3rd book which is Gamma. She's memorizing multiplication facts and is just about to start all the hard ones--4s, 6s, 7s, 8s and 9s. I hear my inner cheerleader coming out a lot these days during math and especially with Ellen in division. I'm saying things like, "You can do it, I know the problem is long but isn't it cool how all these numbers fit together like a puzzle." I always liked math so I'm trying to pass on my enthusiasm.
Next is Language arts--Grammar, Spelling, cursive, copywork, writing.
We usually do 2-3 of those things listed above every day. We've been using the curriculum First Language Lessons for 4 years so we are beginning the 4th volume. The curriculum spends a lot of time memorizing parts of speech lists and definitions, memorizing classic poetry from authors such as Poe, Wordsworth, Stevenson, etc., and diagramming sentences. They both actually enjoy the structure and are very good at it. We chant the lists and poetry and seriously have fun saying them out loud together. It's very rewarding to be able to recite a list or classic poem.

They both do a page or two from their Spelling Workout books and cursive workbooks. Again they enjoy writing so this is a fun thing for them. Arianna asks to write in her cursive book even during her free time.

For copywork I keep a list of famous quotes that they can choose from to copy. This helps them learn the structure and sound of good sentences. It also increases their vocabulary and improves spelling.

On some days I ask them to summarize a part of something they are reading or something from our History reading for extra writing practice.

Reading and instrument practice is next.
We set the timer for 30 minutes and one reads while the other practices. For this read alone time they have to choose something that is of good quality and approved by me. Ellen, for example, read through the Chronicles of Narnia last year and is now on George MacDonald's fantasies. Arianna is still on beginning chapter books like the rainbow fairies or Magic Treehouse. No comics during this time. The girls read at other times of the day but this is the only required reading they do alone.

I'm still teaching Arianna violin and Ellen piano. I'm just one step ahead of them on these instruments so I'm working on finding someone to come to the house for lessons.

We do Latin at least 2 days a week. Ellen started last year using the book Latin for Children as our guide. Arianna is starting this year. We are moving pretty slow for now but I hope to pick back up with it over the next few weeks. They like learning another language.

History & Science
I don't have a specific curriculum for science yet. The girls get enough from nature studies, animal studies, baking, gardening, etc. that we encounter and experience in our daily lives.

I am very excited about history this year. We are learning about Colonial America through historical fiction literature studies. A few moms and I have collected book lists from libraries, textbooks and websites. We have pulled together a great stack of books and will be reading them at home and discussing them as a group during coop. We'll also be doing colonial crafts and other projects. I'm going to do a separate post with more information about this subject.